Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rustic Italian Dinner: Roasted Chicken with Stuffing, Oven-Crisp Potatoes, and White Bean Hummus

I am so proud of the dinner I made last night. It was a Wednesday dinner, and since one of my Kitchen Goals for the year is to make Wednesdays special, I was particularly pleased to have a success on the first round.

I don't usually cook whole chickens (this was my second ever) -- I've cooked more whole turkeys (maybe 6?) than chickens. But I went ahead and gave it a shot -- rubbed the bird down with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs and lemon juice (mostly green tea peppercorn seasoning, yum), then tossed a few onions into the pan, started it at 450 for 5 minutes then baked at 350 for about an hour. This worked out rather nicely, although the dark meat needed a little more oven time. I stuffed the bird with some bits and pieces I threw together -- some chopped tomatoes, a torn-up slice of homemade bread that had gotten a little old and dry, some boxed breadcrumbs, mixed with some melted butter. Why did it not occur to me before that stuffing is just dribs and drabs of whatever you have on hand?? Until this meal, I thought of stuffing as a thing you have a recipe for, or a boxed mix. Silly.

The potatoes I made from thin slices of a single potato I had kicking around the fridge, already washed and ready to go -- I think I had it around because I scaled back the quantity of potatoes in some dish in the middle of prep. Anyway, yes, thin slices, tossed with olive oil, lemon pepper, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for kick. This worked out incredibly well, as I managed to restrain myself from putting in too much pepper and didn't overwhelm the thin and slightly crispy slices. I spread them out on a cookie sheet and baked them beside the chicken for the last 20 minutes of baketime or so. The thinner ones stuck to the pan a bit and some pieces got too brown, so 20 minutes is probably too long.

Then, on to the hummus. This was out-of-the-park, eat-it-again-soon kind of territory. Yuuuuummmmmy. I had planned to follow a recipe for white bean crostini, and changed my mind at the last minute to making hummus instead, since we had pita chips in the pantry not bread to toast into crostinis. Great move, that. Here's what I ended up doing:

2 C cannellini beans (dried then cooked is what I used, I spose you could use canned)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, cut in thin slices
lemon pepper to taste
dried garlic bits to taste
chicken broth to taste
olive oil to taste
rosemary to taste

Whir up 1 C of the beans and half the tomatoes into a nice smooth blend with some olive oil to help it stick together in the food processor while the onions caramelize a bit in some olive oil in the frying pan, then add the other cup of beans, as well as the garlic, rosemary, and pepper. Add maybe 1/4 c of broth, depending on how soupy your mix is. Simmer on the stove until it thickens a bit. Add the contents of the frying pan to the food processor, and pulse a few times to blend. If it seems a bit dry, olive oil should help. The end result will be a nice mixture of chunky and smooth, perfect for scooping with pita chips.

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